14. Natural resources and the human environment for food and agriculture.
FAO Environment Paper No. 1, FAO, Rome, Italy; ISBN 92-5-100967-8; 1980, 62 pp.
FAO has prepared this report on Natural Resources and the Human Environment for Food and Agriculture.
This publication is the first in the technical series on natural resources and the human environment.
This report is an attempt to focus on global level population pressure, natural resources use and management, with particular reference to increased food and agricultural demand and environmental issues.
The demand on the natural resources that sustain man's existence has increased enormously with the unprecedented rise in numbers that has occurred in recent times.
The past population growth has already placed considerable pressure on natural resources, and has in many cases led to their degradation and depletion. In the future this pressure will become even greater.
At the global level, the world's natural resources appear to be adequate for mankind's likely needs. However, they are unevenly distributed in relation to the population and its demands on them, and their utilization thus creates environmental problems in particular areas.
In developing countries, the major environmental concern is not so much the pollution of natural resources as their degradation or depletion.
The rapid increase in the population of these countries has placed great pressure on natural resources. The consequent drive to intensify production has caused the dislocation of traditional agricultural systems, and has led to sometimes hasty attempts to replace them by modern agricultural systems and technologies that are not compatible with the prevailing ecological and socio-economic conditions.
Although the environmental problems of the developed and developing countries are different, their experience in overcoming them could be mutually beneficial. There are a number of main types of action that are required at the national and regional levels for the assessment of natural resources and for their rational management so that the demands on them can be met on a sustained basis:
- It is necessary to reduce the knowledge gaps in the assessment of natural resources, by means of adaptive research on the introduction of new technologies in traditional agricultural systems.
With respect to the existing degradation and loss of natural resources, the highest priority attaches to the control of soil erosion, soil salinity and desertification and the conservation of fish stocks and of genetic resources. Soil erosion must be controlled and eroded land reclaimed on a watershed basis, through appropriate practices for the management and conservation of soil and water resources. Salinization should be controlled and saline soils reclaimed through proper irrigation practices and drainage systems. Desertification control requires the management of vegetation according to ecological principles, including massive programmes of reforestation. The pressure on marine fish stocks can be reduced not only by agreed international measures but also by the development and promotion of aquaculture. A further major priority is for the conservation of endangered genetic resources.
This report is not exhaustive. It is a first approach and will need to be progressively improved and refined. Although global in scope, it uses illustrations and draws on specific data from a number of countries. It also provides a framework for other similar studies at national, regional, and village levels.
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